Statement by Chief Charles Bordeleau | Morgentaler Clinic Demonstrations
The Ottawa Police Service monitors and responds to hundreds of events, demonstrations and protests in the National Capital Region on an annual basis. Each of these events has its own unique challenges, and it is our role to keep the peace and ensure a safe and secure demonstration or protest for all involved, inclusive of those who may be impacted.
One of the more regular demonstration areas in the city is the Morgentaler Clinic on Bank St. We are very aware of the issues at that location and have been working for years to deal with ongoing demonstrations there. This includes being in dialogue with the clinic management and demonstrators. We are reaching out to the clinic management again.
Our police officers routinely monitor this demonstration, do respond to calls for service, and take action that is appropriate in the circumstances. We continually respond to calls for service at this location, most related to protestors and graphic signs.
All reported incidents are taken seriously and investigated. Where warranted we enforce applicable laws.
In one recent case, in early December of 2016, an individual was given a trespass notice for attending the clinic by security. The next day, the individual attended the address again and was stopped by security who called police. Police arrived on scene and spoke with the man who said he would continue to return. He was then arrested by police to prevent the continuation of the offence and brought to the cell block where he was held for a court appearance. He was later charged with mischief.
Our officers have the difficult job of ensuring the safety and security of all those involved or impacted by a demonstration.
We have also been accused by some of not respecting the rights of protestors at that location.
If the clinic wishes to obtain a zone (bubble) around the premise where demonstrations or protests would be prohibited, they would need to pursue the matter with the courts. This would be a civil matter and would need to be decided on by a court because of the impact on individual rights. That is something we simply do not have the authority to grant as a police service.
The City Special Events By-law was not intended to apply to an individual engaged in expressive activity on a sidewalk as in this particular case. Rather, the purpose of the By-law is intended to address larger scale events involving a collection of demonstrators where the management of the municipal right-of-way and other municipal and local resources would necessitate engaging the permit process.
We recognize that there are differing perspectives on issues that may be the subject of any particular protest or demonstration. The application of laws as it relates to protests must be carefully considered, ensuring that the enforcement is not in contravention of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Ottawa Police Service remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of all those involved or impacted by a protest. The preservation of peace is achieved through dialogue and by reaching out to establish lines of communication. As with other protests and demonstrations, we are willing to continue dialogue to ensure the safety and security of all involved and the preservation of peace.